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New Technology, Same Old Problems: How to Properly Leverage Technology Across Your Organization

Jason Urban, Director of Data & Analytics, Ardent Mills
Jason Urban, Director of Data & Analytics, Ardent Mills

Jason Urban, Director of Data & Analytics, Ardent Mills

In today's world, it seems like there's always a "next best thing" in technology. We're inundated with new ideas, software, programs -- all claiming that they are the way of the future, solve your problems and that if you don't get on board, your company will lag.

New technology can open a world of possibilities -- it can make things easier, faster, and allow for innovation. That said, you can have the best technology in the world and not get value out of it, while another company can have older technology, but utilize it properly and get significant value.

Currently, there's too much focus on technology and expecting it to deliver value on its own. The reality is that there's much more to it. If you don't break down company silos, establish well-designed processes interconnected through data, and manage that data across your organization, you are missing out on the value that can be unlocked.

Breaking Down Silos

Breaking down silos across the business and IT, and within IT, is imperative to a business' success. Often, there are silos across separately purchased applications, custom-developed applications, integration teams, data warehouse teams, analytic teams, and more. If your organization does not manage across these technology functions, this can lead to:

● A web of overly complicated, redundant, and/or interconnected technologies
● Inconsistent, conflicting, missing, and/or low-quality data
● Inability to move fast with technology and/or challenges with creating data visibility to the business

  
Finding the appropriate balance between having too little technology and too much technology, breaking down silos, and companywide cross-functional collaboration leads to effective use of technology and continuous improvement and innovation

   

 

Businesses today are made up of people, processes, technology, and data, which are all interdependent. To be successful with technology, you must understand the fundamentals and how it affects your teams across the organization. Business leaders need to have these same understandings to break down silos, and functions must collaborate in the organization's best interest. At Ardent Mills, the premier flour and ingredient company, we take a "people, process, and data" approach first, and then determine the technology required to enable it. This has naturally led to breaking down barriers, a more collaborative environment that spurs innovation, and ultimately helped the organization and our customers' best interest.

Establishing Well-Designed Processes

For a business function to operate at its best, well-designed and interconnected processes must be established. When these aren't set up, it leads to difficult to use data and inability to make advanced insights – both are critical to digital cross-functional collaboration.

Again, using our "people, process, data" first approach, Ardent Mills established a Business Architecture group that's focused on understanding the processes needed by our teams and designing them to fit them best. This proactive model considers Ardent Mills as a whole and solves common reactive model issues, focusing on immediate needs only versus long-term goals. This holistic mindset allows our teams to function correctly and efficiently and use data to make insights-backed business decisions.

Managing Data Across Your Organization

Managing data properly across your organization is essential to having factual data that's easy to access and can be used to drive decisions that maximize value. A great example of how we accomplish this is through our cross-functional organization that spans across business functions and IT. Here's a breakdown:

● Business: We've established roles for Data Stewardship, Self Service Data Analysts, Data & Analytic Leads, and a Data & Analytics Board (Senior Directors) that help bring everything together and make decisions on priority and various options.
● IT: We've established an Enterprise Architecture group that aligns our technology stack to reduce redundancy and ensure it's implemented in a way that supports data alignment across systems. To truly be successful with data, you must align technology solutions that all work together from a data perspective.

● Applications (developed, purchased, or a combination) -- Create and maintain data.
● Integrations -- Make data available to other applications.
● Data Warehouses – Optimize data and centralize it for easier and faster analysis.

If these teams don't align on how they're implementing their technology and collaborate, you will run into efficiency problems. Being aligned internally is key to successfully leveraging technology.

Value of Technology and People

All in all, technology doesn't work if you don't have the right people and processes in place while actively managing your data. At Ardent Mills, we make our technology decisions based on what's required to support employees and customers, processes, and data while trying to maintain a simplified technology stack. Finding the appropriate balance between having too little technology and too much technology, breaking down silos, and companywide cross-functional collaboration leads to effective use of technology and continuous improvement and innovation. As long as you prioritize people, processes, and data over "the next big thing" you're sure to have success across the business and IT.

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